A national legal expert last week raised questions about the political future of Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. For months, speculation has swirled that Cordray would run for governor in his home state of Ohio when his tenure at the CFPB was finished. If he is already making moves to run for that office, Whelan suggests in an article here, that Cordray may be in violation of the Hatch Act.
Whelan’s article summarizes the Hatch Act of 1939. Officially entitled An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities, the law prohibits many high-ranking government employees from certain political activities. The term “employee” is defined in Section 1 as “any individual, other than the President and the Vice President, employed or holding office in…executive agency.” Specifically, the Hatch Act states that employees covered by the law may not “run for the nomination or as a candidate for election to a partisan political office.”
The U.S. Office of Special Council, which is tasked with enforcing the Hatch Act,issued a memo in 2007 clarifying its understanding of the law’s language, which Whelan quotes. The memo states that “any action that can reasonably be construed as evidence that an individual is seeking support for or undertaking an initial ‘campaign’ to secure a nomination or election to office would be viewed as candidacy for purposes of the Hatch Act.” A significant example Whelan cites is “meeting with individuals to plan the logistics or strategy of a campaign.”
With that background, Whelan links to an article in a Cleveland newspaper that reports on a state supreme court judge that was told “by a mutual friend” that Cordray was going to run for governor. The judge said that the friend stated Cordray’s intent “openly” and told him “that he is leaving” his post at the CFPB. The judge said that the mutual friend reached out to him to see if he would stand by an earlier commitment to Cordray to not run for governor if Cordray did. The judge told the newspaper that he was not running because Cordray was.
If the judge was acting on a request from the Cordray camp to stand down from running, Whelan suggests that it would be an example of seeking support or launching a candidacy, which the Hatch Act prohibits.